S.S Astro Asashio Sogo Teacher’s ROom: Volume #1
Written and Illustrated by Negi Banno
Yen Press, Rated OT for Older Teen, $10.99 USA, $11.99 CAN
Following up on my promise from earlier this week, here’s my review of S. S. Astro, Asashio Sogo Teacher’s ROom, vol. 1. S.S. Astro is an interesting title. Like I mentioned earlier this week, it’s part of Yen Press’ yonkoma (four cell) selection of manga, meaning it strays from the “normal” style of manga writing, and is read from top to bottom, cell to cell. This format has some limitations, but it’s also has some very positive traits. I enjoyed the simplicity of the format, and it was quite easy to read, and for manga like this, where the movement is more subdued, the format isn’t an unnecessary burden like it can be for more action-oriented manga. On the downside, it seems that throughout the manga, the plot is a bit forced, because the author has to end each series of cells with a gag, joke, or insight into a character.
That being said, the most interesting part of any character-driven manga is, obviously, the characters, and it’s good to see that manga-ka Banno has developed some truly interesting characters to focus his stories around. Each of the characters has his or her (mostly her) distinct personality, and each is well-rounded, complex, and enjoyable.
The art is beautiful, and the linework is extremely delicate. The manga-ka does a great job of showing expressions and moods throughout each strip. It’s refreshing to see this level of detail in this kind of book. There were occasions where characters blended together, and without carefully looking at clothing or costumes, it was hard to tell who was who. This, fortunately, only happened once or twice, and wasn’t enough to ruin the book for me.
The gags and humor are a large part of the story line, and although I was never rolling on the floor, the subtle wit and sometimes acerbic humor only made this a more enjoyable read.
Yen Press has added a wonderful translator’s notes in the back of the volume, explaining some of the terminology, and there are four full-color pages at the front of the book. The paper is high quality, and due to the style of the drawings, there are never any problems with text being lost in the spine of the book. In addition to all of this, there’s a preview of Suzunari! vol #1, which seems like a cute little book. I think it’s a nice idea to add a preview of other manga at the back of the volume, but I’m not sure I’d purchase Suzunari! just based on the preview.
I recommend this book to anyone that likes subtle humor and a relaxed story telling environment. I greatly enjoyed this book, and am eagerly awaiting volume #2.
Side Note: A few others have written reviews for this manga, and I have to say that on some respects I agree with their discussion of the book in its relationship to Azumanga Daioh, although I have to say that this manga should not be judged by solely by its comparitiveness to that title. Azumanga Daioh, while a wonderful manga and anime, is not the fount from which all other slice of life manga come from. While it’s true that the presence of Azumanga Daioh and its success in the manga and anime market may increase the sales of S. S. Astro, this manga has merit on its own.